Ah, the golden age of television. It has its sweet, sweet advantages, but it has its disadvantages. Sure, we’re being treated to new, era-defining productions every few days now, but one of the lesser-known drawbacks of the streaming explosion is that, to satisfy our insatiable expectation for new content, it’s easier than ever to walk away. with the broadcast of absolute nonsense. Unfortunately, the new Apple TV+ “Reduction” show is complete nonsense.
When to start? First, the premise—the therapist (Jason Siegel) picks up the pieces after his wife’s death and learns a few important lessons along the way—is as banal as possible. “The Dead Wife” is a lazy plot move that the writers hope will immediately make their characters more complex. This doesn’t mean that the characters can’t grieve: in the case of a widower therapist like Sean (Robin Williams) in “Clever Will Hunting,” grief really adds nuance to the character, the woman who died comes to life thanks to well-observed, painfully realistic dialogue. In “Downsizing,” the writers seem to have never heard people talking to each other before.
When we meet Siegel’s character, Jimmy, he has a terrible relationship with his 17-year-old daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell), and he’s going through the death of his wife with pills and young women in underwear. Since “Diminution” is played out as a soulful comedy, these disturbing survival mechanisms don’t seem plausible, and neither does Jimmy. While there may be an intriguing, dark version of this show in which Jimmy really maniacally and more realistically loses the plot, in this version we have to believe that every few sentences big stupid Jimmy made a joke. dripping in comedic self-awareness while the characters around him just roll their eyes.
The advantage of the show (forgotten after about the second episode) is that Jimmy’s nervous breakdown prompts him to radically interfere in the lives of his clients. “Just leave him the fuck alone,” he tells Grace, a woman whose husband is emotionally abusing her. “It’s not that simple,” she says. “It’s so simple,” he insists. And, lo and behold, it really is so: Grace leaves her husband, by the way, also capable of extreme violence, and her life miraculously improves! Jimmy forces a young ex-soldier with aggression problems (Luke Tenney) to take up boxing, and then invites him to live in his pool house. The culture of therapy in the US is different than in the UK, but we shudder at the thought that any therapist watching “Reduction” will think of professionals in the series. Jimmy, along with colleagues Gabby (Jessica Williams) and Paul (Harrison Ford), are just as likely to work as therapists as a horse. Jimmy should have been fired long before the show started.
One of the most unusual things about the series is that Liz (Krista Miller), a character whom the writers consider “a woman who sticks her nose in and polishes stones,” Jimmy and Gaby treat her like a criminal because she has the audacity. Take deep care of Alice, a girl who not only lost her mother, but was also cruelly neglected by her selfish father, who knows nothing about what is happening in her life. For some reason, a recurring theme is that the characters persistently tell Liz to back off because she is, in fact, a better person than any of them.
Everywhere this problem raises its head: in order to make a plot move, the characters must behave irrationally and uncharacteristically. Of course, after a quarrel, everyone immediately reconciles, and everything goes back to normal. For a show that professes a desire to explore grief and trauma, “Diminishing” is sometimes so cloying that it causes a headache.
The parts with Harrison Ford’s character, grumpy old Paul, are among the strongest in the series. Paul begins to have Parkinson’s disease, and, like Jimmy, he struggles with his relationship with his daughter. Ford can be funny, and the medical history is comparatively touching, but the problem here is that it’s like two different shows stitched together. As a character, Paul doesn’t seem to belong in Jimmy and Gaby’s world, partly because his storyline—perhaps because of Ford’s strength as an actor-is handled relatively expertly, without any annoying injections of implausible jokes.
In the eighth episode, the penultimate in the series, jokes suddenly begin to appear, and the drama begins to work. This is a welcome relief. But “to endure seven episodes and then have a little laugh” is not a very good recommendation, is it?
“Compression” is available on Apple TV+ from January 27.